5 Things Caregivers Should Know About Constipation and Severe Dementia

It's important to be aware of the possibility of constipation when caring for someone with severe-stage Alzheimer's. Constipation becomes more common with age and can cause discomfort for anyone -- especially those with dementia who can't easily articulate what's wrong.

What to know:

1. Don't overworry about bowel habits. It's not necessary for your loved one to have a bowel movement every single day. As a general rule, three days without a BM is considered constipation.

2. Keep track with a toileting chart. You may think you'll remember your loved one's habits, but it's much easier to simply record this information just as you probably already track medications.

3. Be aware of facial expressions (such as grimaces) during toileting or strong emotional reactions that might be signs of fear or discomfort around using the bathroom.

4. Be especially watchful when there's a change in medication (including the use of over-the-counter meds) or after your loved one has been ill. Know that opiate painkillers (like Vicodin) tend to worsen constipation.

5. Ask the doctor or pharmacist about stool softeners and other constipation treatments. There are many options, and each works in different ways. Medical advice can help you match the right one for your loved one.

Get more constipation tips.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

almost 3 years, said...

My mom has not had a bowel movement for about 5 days now, and I don't know what to do, I have tried a lot of different things but they are not working. Is this related to the severe stage of the disease or is it normal in all people with AD. Please, advise. Cascada

over 3 years, said...

I normally ask when she takes a shower if she has had a bowel movement. She normally tells me when she can't go . I give a small glass of prune juice . It works every time .

over 3 years, said...

Constipation is directly influenced by two important factors omitted from the article! Diet and hydration. Certain foods, such as cheeses or pizzas, will add to constipation woes. Likewise, not consuming enough fluids directly alters the softness of stool and it will lead to a fecal impaction--a painful condition for the patient. Mobility is another consideration since having the patient ambulate will enhance peristalsis within the intestines. Making certain the patient consumes at least eight glasses of fluid daily and eats a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables to receive bulk in the stool will go a long way towards minimizing the need for laxatives of any sort. This is the program I follow with my 91 1/2 year old mother with Alzheimer's and she also requires reassurance and persuasion to even get onto the toilet. I focus on the desire to prevent a rash or redness on her skin and this distracts her from the task of having a bowel movement--saying I want to change her Tena panties so they are "fresh," and I say, "You were about to reach for the grab rail [near her toilet] and I am going to help pull down the old panty," etc. There is much more than mentioned in this article to maintain healthy bowel habits.

over 4 years, said...

Mirolax. Works like a wonder...... Do it you won't be sorry.....

almost 5 years, said...

important facts that answers our "why" and "what' in our mind and options to consider. This definitely helps manage the anxiety of caregivers